Thursday, 30 October 2014

Sewing Lesson 3 - Pockets

 Although there isn't that much to see yet, I have started my first tunic dress!  I spent the majority of the lesson last week pinning and cutting out the pattern, which took ages, but I wanted to take my time and cut it as accurately as I could.
I then started sewing the pockets (having discovered that tacking bias binding is a very worthwhile exercise).  Initially, I had some trouble as I had pressed the bias binding so that it wasn't quite equal on both sides, so when I tried to sew it, my stitches just fell off one side of the binding. Once it was tacked, I got on much better.  You can see that I am using the 'rather loud' (Chris' words) material I bought at one of the vintage fairs back in September and I think it will look great.  So, I have some sewing homework to do before my next lesson - shoulder seams, side seams and back seam and then attach the bias binding to the sleeve ends...(Sue, my tutor, said she though we could probably get the tunic dress nearly finished next lesson, with perhaps just the hem to do at home. I'll give it my best shot, anyway!)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Colour now and for next year

One of my blueberries, 'Goldtraube' is putting on a wonderful show of colour which I am really enjoying.  It was a dark burgundy red a week or two ago and is gradually changing to this...
 ...fiery bright red...
 ...with yellow and orange. It is fantastic.
 Colour for next year will be provided partly by these lovely Cosmos and californian poppies.  Cosmos has done really well for me over the last few years, so I have ordered more varieties for next year.  The packets at the back of the photo didn't have pictures, so the pictures below are from Mr Fothergill's website.
 Cosmos cosimo red purple white and...
...Cosmos Tetra Versailles mixed.  I hope these new-to-me varieties will do well next year.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Sewing Lesson 2 or Ellie's got a brand new bag!

With apologies to James Brown (Papa's got a brand new bag), I would like to unveil my new bag! This was the second project in my sewing lesson and I almost completed it in two hours.  (I had to close the turning out hole at home and I think it would benefit from top stitching around the top which will also reinforce the handles).  The fabric was a remnant which Chris had squirrelled away (I think it is a vintage pattern) and which I wanted to use for something special, as I loved it.  As it was a heavier material than just a cotton, it was perfect for this project.
I even made a pocket, with reinforced top corners, in the cheerful red gingham lining.
The lining in all its glory.
It's a pattern I may well return to in the future as it was easy to put together and will be versatile, I think.  Perhaps a bag with longer handles so that it will go over the shoulders might be a future project.  Next week, we are starting on the tunic dress and I am excited about that.
Incidentally, my tutor, Sue, said that I am not a beginner any more - I am an improver now (woohoo!)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A great night

 Last Friday, Chris and I enjoyed a lovely evening, beginning with 'Eric and Little Ern'.  It was a very affectionate and joyful portrayal of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in their personal and professional relationships. The actors both did a terrific job, particularly the actor playing Ernie, as there are fewer noticeable characteristics to be imitated.  The first half was set in hospital, with Ernie recovering from a heart problem and Eric visiting him.  The viewer quickly realises that this is after Eric's death, so is he really there, or is Ernie just imagining him?  The second half takes place in front of the famous curtains and is a joyful recreation of parts of the Morecambe and Wise shows, with various ad libs and audience interaction included.  A family sitting next to us had brought their young children and while I encourage children being taken to appropriate shows, they seemed to find the first half  boring. However, they must have enjoyed the second half, as we didn't hear a peep out of them! A woman sitting behind us was almost in hysterics, which the performers picked up on and included.  Chris was also noticed as he has a very distinctive laugh, and this was also picked up on, much to my amusement.  If you are a fan of Morcambe and Wise and this show is coming near you, do go and see it, as it will leave you feeling very happy.
How to follow that? Well, we arrived home to find a concert with Jeff Lynne and ELO, in Hyde Park, earlier in the summer, being broadcast on BBC4.  The photo above shows the man himself during Mr Blue Sky, off our TV.  For sheer happiness, Mr Blue Sky is hard to beat - follow the link! (I have featured this song before, but I love it, so here it is again!)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Golden Autumn Blog Swap

I really enjoy taking part in blog swaps now and again and this is one of my favourites.  It is run by Blueberry Heart and this is the third year I have joined in.  I was partnered with Amanda from Crafty in the Med and after emailing a few times and doing some research about likes and dislikes, we started gathering and making.  We swapped parcels last week and goodness me, what a wonderful selection of goodies I unwrapped.
Here they all are, waiting to be unwrapped.
 Here is everything once unwrapped.  I was so lucky as Amanda had been very generous.
Saffron (I know, I need to find some special recipes to use this in), watermelon seeds, hazelnut chocolate and a notebook.
 Some gorgeous crochet including a doily, a crochet bracelet (which is really light and comfortable to wear), a crochet purse containing another surprise and a beautiful crocheted collar.
 The surprise was a lovely ceramic magnet which is at the top of the picture and there was also a beautifully decorated bowl and a brochure about a traditional Spanish costume.
 More things kept appearing - badges, ribbons, charms, buttons, needles and pins.
I loved this badge - very appropriate indeed!  A huge thank you to Amanda, who was an amazing swap partner.
Here's what I sent to Amanda - lots of autumnal coloured bits and pieces, including felt and jewellery (of course). She said she liked orange, so as you can see, that colour featured quite a bit! Her post about my parcel can be found here.
Here are my parcels ready to be wrapped and sent off.  Thanks to Blueberry Heart for organising the swap, thanks to Amanda and here's to the Autumn swap next year!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

New Polymer Clay equipment

I was going to call this a new 'toy', but actually, it is equipment (although it is a lot of fun!)It is a polymer clay screen printing kit and with it, fabulous surface patterns can be applied to polymer clay, using acrylic paint.

 The kit has four sheets of patterns, paint and squeegee and instructions and I found it really easy to use, once you gauge how much paint is needed.  I made some round pendants as there are two sheets of round patterns, but there are also two sheets of full sheet patterns as well. The sheet is placed onto the rolled out clay, then a squirt of paint is applied just above the top of the pattern and is squeegeed down across the pattern.  It has to be left to dry before baking and the sheets need to be put into warm water as soon as the pattern has been printed as they can't be rubbed to clean them in case the pattern came off.  The sheet needs to be left to dry before using again, so time is needed.
 Here are some of my pendants, nearly ready to wear.  The patterns came out clearly and look lovely against the skinner blend blue background.

 This flower pattern looks a bit japanese-inspired to me.
 Even the tiny dots in this design can be seen.
This back was a happy accident.  I like to make the backs of the pendants interesting, but I hadn't realised that I had made a landscape, or perhaps seascape, with this one.
To use some of the scrap clay I had, I also created some kaleidoscope canes and made a few more pendants.  It's always fascinating to create new patterns. I think I'll be experimenting much more with the silk screen and the kaleidoscope canes.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Sewing lesson 1

I had my first sewing lesson on Monday evening.  I was a bit nervous, but Sue, the tutor, was very nice and I soon felt relaxed.  She asked me about my sewing experience and my aims and then took me through the basics of the machine I'd be using (which is quite similar to mine at home), trying out different stitches and trying to sew straight lines (much more difficult than I thought!)  My sewing has always been a little wiggly and I discovered that this was because I was watching the needle and not the edge of the foot. 
 Once I had sewn a double turned hem and a seam, we went on to make a pincushion, using scraps of material.
I was very pleased with mine - simple but useful!  I am going to make a tote bag with a lining and pocket next time I go and then the next time after that, I'll be starting the tunic dress.  In between lessons, I am going to practise with my machine and improve my stitching lines.  Sue also suggested I make a tunic dress with her and then go and make one by myself as well.  After that, I shall be making the A line denim skirt with a zip (at long last!)
I really enjoyed the lesson and am looking forward to the next one!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Things making me happy

A last hurrah in the garden, led by a beautiful, feathery miscanthus seedhead.
 Orange and purple - crocosmia Emily Mackenzie and a purple/blue nemesia.
 Aster Little Carlow with the autumn colours of the magnolia leaves behind.
New plants - Salvia Nachtvlinder with rich velvety purple flowers and another yellowy orange crocosmia 'Columbus'.
Another thing making me happy (and a little nervous, but in a good way, I think) is that I have taken the plunge and am having my first sewing lesson on Monday evening. Yes, I have finally stopped prevaricating and will be actually making some clothes!  The vintage material I bought at the fair will be used and I may even progress on to the A line denim skirt which has been sitting about for a fair few months!  Hoorah!  I'll let you know how I get on...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Vintage Fairs

 
Yesterday, a friend and I headed off to sample the delights of two vintage fairs being held in Lincoln.  As she said, 'vintage fairs here are like buses, nothing for ages and then two turn up together!'  Above is a photos of the cathedral, just because I like it!
The first fair was held at the University of Lincoln, at The Engine Shed, a venue which used to be, yes, you've guessed it, an engine shed!  There were quite a few people there and we were there when it started.  It was a real trip down memory lane and the 1980s fashions with ruching, bows and dropped waists were very familiar. In fact, I owned several of those types of dresses!  There was also a plethora of crimplene but also some very nice 1950s and 1960s dresses too, though, sadly, not in my size.  The music was quite random though and didn't really fit so well with the vintage theme. I bought some material and hope that there is enough for me to make a tunic dress.
The next fair was organised by Britain does Vintage and was at the Drill Hall, a lovely theatre/music/comedy venue which used to be, yes, a Drill Hall!
 I must admit, of the two fairs, this was our favourite.  The music was suitably vintage too, ranging from the 1940s to the 1960s.  There were some beautiful 1950s dresses here too, and one in particular caught my eye.  It had red roses on it and a high collar at the front, then at the back, the collar dipped down and had a lovely bow with long tails which covered the zip. It had a full skirt and I could just imagine myself in it. Sadly, it wasn't my size though.
 The other thing we really liked about this fair was the tea room above the main hall.  It was decorated with patriotic and floral bunting and had proper china.  The ladies serving the refreshments were dressed in vintage clothes and the music was mainly from the 1940s - Glenn Miller featuring quite a bit.  In the photo above, you can see the cake I chose (and delicious it was too) and a little lemon pot which my friend bought as a Christmas present for a member of her family as she collects them.  I bought more material!
Here are the two rather different patterns I bought.  I'm not sure how vintage they are, but they were very good value. The Liberty-type pattern was from the first fair and the fabulous floral number was from the second. (I showed them to Chris, who said the one on the right was 'a bit loud').  He's probably right, but I like it!  The plan, as I mentioned, is to make them into tunic dresses, to be worn with leggings and ankle boots at this time of year.  However, I am seriously contemplating a few sewing lessons because I am not at all confident about making clothes and I think a bit of tuition from someone who knows what they are doing would help.  I really want to make some clothes, so watch this space...

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cakes and Makes

I picked the last few blueberries from my plants this year and decided to make little cakes with them, however, there weren't quite enough.  I found half a bag of chocolate chips and added them in too.
Great result!  The cakes were yummy and the blueberries and chocolate worked well together.  (There were originally twelve cakes, but Chris and I both felt we should test them before I posted about them, hence just nine in the photo!)
 I have been making some really simple stretchy bracelets recently too.  These are the blue goldstone (glass with copper in it to give the beautiful sparkle) bracelets which were the start of my jewellery making obsession.  They were just too big in their original form, so finally, I have sorted them out and can now wear them.
 I bought this bracelet from a craft fair and it was originally on beading thread with a clasp.  I had re-strung it so that it fitted, but didn't wear it that often.  I decided to elasticate it so that it was easy to get on and off and I hope I'll wear it much more.
Finally, blue shell carved flowers and shell pearls - pretty and summery.  I think that more elasticated bracelets may well be made in the future.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

September colour in the garden highlights

It's the middle of September already - where has this year gone?  We have been lucky so far as the weather has been kind to us at the moment and long may that continue. The plants are enjoying the weather, although they are starting to change with the season.  Above is Hydrangea 'Magical Revolution' which I am still not sure about. The petals are starting to take on a red tinge which I like, so I'll wait to see what else changes.
 Rosa Molineux is rewarding me with more beautiful flowers.
 Clematis 'Perle D'Azur' is also flowering again, in rather a tangle, it has to be said.  I am waiting for a new trellis arch for it to scramble up.
 Asters are flowering too and the novae-angliae varieties are my favourite.  I think this may be September Ruby.
 Another pretty aster.
 Good old stalwart Helianthus Lemon Queen.
 Another aster, this time it is Little Carlow.  It has been fabulous this year and is usually full of insects too.


I am definitely starting to embrace orange in the garden as well.  This is a recent purchase called Crocosmia Emily MacKenzie and it offers a vibrant antidote to all the delicate pastel shades.
After a lot of consideration, the award for star plant of the month has to go to Cosmos Sonata (these are supposed to be a dwarf variety).  I grew them from seed, popped five plants into a terracotta pot and waited.  Lots of frothy foliage, but the flowers took their time.  Now that they are here, all is forgiven!  I have grown them for the last three years and just love them.  I think they will always be a part of any garden I have.